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Saturday, February 18, 2012

michael jordan lawsuit

michael jordan lawsuit



A federal judge has ruled that a national grocery store chain's reference to Michael Jordan in an ad-like magazine layout was constitutionally protected free speech – a decision that thwarts the former Chicago Bulls player's bid for control of his billion-dollar image.


In a finding that surprised some legal observers, the court in Chicago concluded Jewel-Osco wasn't endeavoring to sell anything with the page featuring basketball shoes emblazoned with "23," Jordan's Bulls jersey number.

In the layout published in a special 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated on Jordan, Jewel-Osco congratulated the six-time NBA champion on his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and it included a large Jewel-Osco logo under the text.

"The page does not propose any kind of commercial transaction, as readers would be at a loss to explain what they have been invited to buy," U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said in an opinion posted late Wednesday on Jordan's lawsuit against the company.

Celebrities such as Jordon meticulously guard their images, and others have successfully sued companies for appearing to employ praise as a way to slip in references to a public figure into an advertisement.

But Feinerman said Jewel-Osco was expressing a view rather than trying to sell a product in this case.

Competing chain store Dominick's, which Jordan is suing separately, also ran a congratulatory page in the same magazine. Feinerman said the fact that both Jewel-Osco and Dominick's ran the messages further illustrated that the layout couldn't have been commercial because Jordan "does not play on two or more sides of the same fence, commercially speaking."

"Jordan is Hanes, not Jockey or Fruit of the Loom; Nike, not Adidas or Reebok; Chevrolet, not Ford or Chrysler; McDonald's, not Burger King or Wendy's," the judge wrote.

The judge's ruling suggests Jordan may not prevail in the lawsuit, which claims Itasca-based Jewel-Osco unlawfully invoked Jordan's identity, not primarily to congratulate him, but to market the company.According to Jonathan Jennings, a Chicago-based trademark and rights of publicity attorney, the ruling goes against a prevailing trend of courts regarding such corporate messages as advertising.

"There may be concern that if this ruling stands or becomes accepted doctrine, then you could see more advertisement appear that are merely couched as tributes," he said.

Jordan attorney Frederick Sperling said he disagrees with the ruling, saying several witnesses admitted the layout was intended to promote Jewel-Osco's goods and services. "That," he said, "is an admission that the ad was commercial speech."

Jewel-Osco spokesman Mike Siemienas said the company is pleased by the ruling. He added that, "We continue to believe we acted appropriately."

Feinerman left open the possibility Jordan could continue his suit against Jewel-Osco, saying he wants to hear arguments on whether constitutionally protected speech is automatically immune from damage claims.

Jordan's legal team would be in a position to appeal only after the judge makes a final ruling on the lawsuit.
A federal judge has struck a blow to Michael Jordan's lawsuit against a Chicago-area supermarket chain over a magazine ad three years ago.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman ruled that the ad by Jewel-Osco was "noncommercial speech" and protected by the First Amendment.

Jordan sued the chain over the ad that appeared in Sports Illustrated when he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

The former Chicago Bulls star contends the ad infringed on his trademark and business interests.
Jordan's attorney, Fred Sperling, tells the Chicago Tribune that they disagree with the ruling.

A Jewel-Osco spokesman says the company is "pleased."

Both sides will file briefs next month.

Michael Jordan is currently shooting 0 for 1 from the litigation line.

According to U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman, a national grocery chain's allusion to the NBA great in a magazine layout amounted to speech protected by the First Amendment.

Stunning many intellectual property scholars who saw a movement in the federal courts to grant celebrities increased protection over their images, the Chicago court held that Jewel-Osco hadn't stolen or profited from Michael Jordan's image because the magazine spread in question wasn't designed to sell anything.

Jewel-Osco argued that their layout, published in 2009, was a simple congratulatory gesture to Jordan on his Hall of Fame induction.

“The page does not propose any kind of commercial transaction, as readers would be at a loss to explain what they have been invited to buy,’’ wrote Judge Feinerman in his opinion.

Because Jewel-Osco was expressing a view and not marketing a product, Jordan had no factual grounds to win his lawsuit.

Jonathan Jennings, a Chicago-based trademark lawyer told the Associated Press that, "The ruling goes against a prevailing trend of courts regarding such corporate messages as advertising. There may be concern that if this ruling stands or becomes accepted doctrine, then you could see more advertisements appear that are merely couched as tributes."

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